Friday, November 27, 2015

Greece supports the creation of a Palestinian state based on the borders of 1967 and with East Jerusalem as its capital, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday in statements after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Tsipras noted that Greece's position on the Palestinian issue was one of "principle" and independent of the country's efforts to develop bilateral ties with Israel. Abbas referred to the "historic foundations" of Greek-Palestinian relations and appealed to Greeks to support the Palestinian people's demand to live in dignity in their homeland, within their own independent state.

Tsipras said that destabilisation and conflicts in the region are increasing and that the Palestinian issue was among the causes sparking destabilisation."For this reason, it is necessary to take bold steps today and support any international initiative," he said. In this framework, he added, Athens welcomed any effort made by President Abbas in this direction. Following the talks, it was announced that Greece and the Palestinian Authority are to form a joint ministerial committee to strengthen relations and that Abbas will visit Athens on December 21 - 22.

Tsipras concluded his visit to Israel and Palestine after meeting with Patriarch Theophilos III, during which the PM hailed the contribution of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem to interfaith dialogue at an especially critical time. Welcoming the PM, the Patriarch noted that his visit is especially important at this time when Christians in the region are facing difficulties and are looking to Greece for protection.

The fall 2015 issue of The Ambassadors Review runs an article titled "Greece and the European Project: Canary in the Coal Mine?" by Daniel V. Speckhard, United States Ambassador to Greece from 2007 to 2010. The main point made by Speckhard is that Greece is not, as many would to have it, an exception to the European rule, but "has much more in common with many countries in the Eurozone than many in Europe would want to admit".

As the debt crisis unfolded, a "crumbling economic foundation built on a corrupt, oligarchic, and debt-addicted system" was exposed. Luckily, as Speckhard argues, EU leaders worked an agreement that provided a good solution -for the short run. However, Greece was left with an unsustainable debt burden of nearly twice its GDP, whilst the easy money flowing in for many years ran out, breaking down in the process the social contract, exposing the huge inequity between rich and poor, and squeezing the middle class.

The harsh reality of an austerity budget with higher taxes and painful cuts in public spending for salaries, pensions, health care, social services and education hurt unsurprisingly most the poorest and those in need, whilst tensions and pressure on the entire population sent the political system into convulsions.

While Greece may lie at one end of the spectrum in terms of financial mismanagement and past reliance on external financing, Speckhard notes that it shares with many other Eurozone countries characteristics, such as: supporting social programs that will be unsustainable as their overall population age; a growing disparity between rich and poor, with opportunities and success for only some; political instability and flight to the extremes. 

The EU might function quite well in good times of economic growth, "but when times get tough, the spirit of compromise and consensus-building comes under strain. From issues of open borders and the free flow of people, labor, and goods, to developing a unified foreign and security policy, the European Union is struggling to maintain the ground it has already gained". For all these reasons, Speckhard argues, Greece is not so much an outlier in Europe, but rather a canary in a coal mine.

In June 2015, the Australian chapter of the Hellenic Initiative (THI) launched its Internship Programme to provide work and training opportunities for young Greek graduates. THI Australia has partnered with more than twenty Australian companies to offer six-month paid internship positions, representing a €1.7 million investment for over two years. 

The first forty-three graduates selected, who are due to depart early 2016, were formally introduced to the president of the Australian chapter of the Hellenic Initiative, Nick Pappas, on November 16, in Athens. A lawyer and chairman of Bank of Sydney, Pappas explains that "it is not that Australian bankers are brighter than their Greek peers, it is about working in a highly developed environment inherited by the British". 

The programme’s mission is to help interns receive mentorship, based on their Australian workplace experience. Participating companies include major Australian banks and placements are spread across Australia in a variety of industries. Past the six-month period, graduates must return to Greece, hopefully, with new mindsets and experiences. The return is obligatory "otherwise, we would be not helping Greece", Pappas concludes. 

The Australian Internship Programme is in partnership with the ReGeneration programme in Greece.

The Greek island of Kythera takes central stage at the Half King Photo Series in New York, from November 17 to January 3, 2016, through the photos of Kristina Williamson, who lived and worked among Kytherians for over a year, aiming to see how emigration, modernization, and globalization were affecting the island's tiny community.

Her images were published in a volume in 2013, a visual contemplation of the contradictions of modernity, of ‘what endures from the past and what is gone—glimmering through the dream of things that were'. The book won third place for Best Documentary Photography Book at the International Photography Awards (2015).

One Year on Kythera is a ‘visual document of what stitches together Kythera’s communities—traditions that prevail, despite a foreboding future, its inhabitants and its culture’. It is a contemporary look into the lives of those who have chosen to remain on the island; the ways in which they maintain a traditional way of life and those in which their lifestyles are changing. Williamson’s photographs unveil Kythera as a complex, beautiful place, ‘defined by its relationship to the sea and its rocky green hills, where young and old enact with humor the rituals that define community’. 

Kythera is also the location of Kythera Mon Amour, a film to be released by the end of the year. Filmed in the summer of 2015, it is a story of love, migration and longing for a home set in some of the most beautiful locations of the island. The film, feature-length homage to Kythera, documents not only the island’s landscape and people but also some of its less tangible aspects – the air, the waves, the sounds and the atmosphere.